A promise of this year’s Stonewall Street Festival and Parade is to deliver quality, local, talent to the three stages that will soon appear on Wilton Drive this Sunday, June 19. Critics might only see the economical advantage of local performers. Yet, optimists realize this allows individuals connected to the community a chance to be showcased.
One such performer is Paul Bellantoni, a singer-songwriter in the band Not for Nothing. The trio of performers, Bellantoni on piano, A Girl Named Chuck on guitar, and Charles Hanlon on drums formed a year ago.
“We flowed quite well, from the first time we played together,” said Bellantoni recently. “We haven’t left each other’s sides since.”
The relationship between A Girl Named Chuck and Bellantoni began several years ago, at a coffee shop in Fort Lauderdale where he worked. Chuck has been a fixture in the local music scene since the mid-1990s. It was she who flatly asked if he was gay, and later helped him find his voice as a singer.
“She pushed me on stage for the first time. I sang an Ani di Franco song and it was then a voice I didn’t know I had came out of me,” he said, recalling the moment with emotion. “I realized before I was always the kid hiding behind his art, or the piano, but this was me. So, I came out as gay and a musician in 2001.”
Previously Bellanotoni’s focus and passion had been visual arts. Like many artists he found the demons of depression and substance abuse relieved by expressing himself through art. His family was more surprised at his coming out as a musician – meaning, pursue it as a career – than coming out as gay.
“I spent a lifetime in silence, which gives me a perspective,” Bellantoni told SFGN. “Being silent allows you to observe.”
There is a certain calmness to Bellantoni. In his rocker-apropos black he observes his surroundings with care. By this I do not mean he gave off some feigned world-weary ennui during our two meetings. Instead it seemed he was thinking about his next song, performance, or band mates. Writing is of course a very private, soul-searching experience.
“I take some time for me, some introspective time. I meet the audience. Then when I sit down at the piano Chuck, Charles and me, all exchange glances and we begin. For me I want the audience to see who I am, an unapologetic gay man on piano. Which is good, I feel it’s good to show the gay community what else a gay man can be,” said about bringing songs written in private to the public eye.
A gay man can be very diverse, clearly. So can a group of musicians. Hanlon is a straight man, married with two kids. A Girl Named Chuck is XXXXX and they have received much support by New Moon Bar, Wilton Drive’s main lesbian venue. Carol Moran has supported local performers for many…moons, pardon the cliché. Not for Nothing, in fact performs there on the first Saturday of each month.
In terms of optimism, Bellantoni is very optimistic about South Florida and the Fort Lauderdale, Wilton Manors area for the arts and artists. Despite the cynicism even many locals have when they reflect on life here.
“Don’t underestimate this town. It’s more dynamic than people think,” Bellantoni said. “You just have to look through the cracks and crevasses to find the diamonds.”
Not for Nothing will appear on The Manors/New Moon Stage at 8 p.m. at the Sunday June 19 Stonewall Street Festival and Parade. They are also currently working on an album, which they hope will soon debut.
Please visit StonewallWiltonManors.com for information on Pride performers and NewMoonBar.com for upcoming performances by Not for Nothing and other local talent.